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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jean Chauvel's Restaurant 3B - On the Rise in Billancourt

Is it a brasserie? A neobistrot?  A cozy bar and lounge for a relaxing drink and aperatif?  Oui, oui, and oui. Jean and Nelly Chauvel's new establishment in the heart of Boulogne Billancourt is finally here, after a two-year hiatus following the sale of their Michelin-starred Les Magnolias in the Paris suburbs.  I'm not sure the name is the best choice, but it is quasi-efficient in a functional sense, highlighting the location (Boulogne Billancourt) and the more welcoming, low-key Brasserie aspect... not necessarily in that order.  The name misses the lounge and neobistrot pieces of a grander Gestalt, but perhaps you get the idea when you recognize that Jean Chauvel is the driving force of the enterprise.

The elegant new address boasts an accessible brasserie that is open all day long, Mon. - Sat., offering breakfast, lunch, or dinner highlighted by a lunch menu of 26€ (2 plates) or 34€ ( 3 plates).  Things get serious in the evening in the back room, offering high cuisine a la Les Magnolias.  There you have two options: a menu confiance priced at 76€ and a more formidable menu degustation at 98€.  Take the latter if you haven't eaten for a couple days; Co. and I found the lower-priced alternative to be more than ample, especially in light of M. Chauvel's penchant for bringing out surprises along the way.  In fact, it is all surprises for dinner - unlike the brasserie, which does actually boast a descriptive carte, the most you are told regarding the high-class dinners is 'you'll find out.' If you don't like surprises, stick to the brasserie.

I had a sneak preview of 3B back in March after accepting an invite to attend a pre-opening open house.  The Chauvel's have a lot of friends and the warm atmosphere sensed then has apparently carried over to the new restaurant.  It's the early days for the back room, but Co. and I were eager to try.

from the March open house
You don't find this much space in your typical Paris restaurant.  In the elegant back room, it's nice to know that you can have an intimate meal without revealing your secrets to the diners sitting at the next table.  Nelly Chauvel is present throughout, amiably overseeing the operation.  The wine list offers a number of reasonably-priced alternatives and thankfully is pared down from the monumental and overwhelming tome one was handed at Les Magnolias.  I don't know how much of the cave stayed at Les Magnolias when the Chauvels parted, but the current cave certainly is not lacking.  We opted for the 45€ Chateau Moulin Cantelaude 2009. 


And check out the size of  the kitchen - I want one like that.

The 3B kitchen

As for dinner, the menu confiance included some Les Magnolias souveniers along with some new inventive twists:

mise en bouche1

mise en bouche 2 - cucumbers

The homard entree - without question, a highlight

One of those surprises I was talking about - to accompany the homard, an amazing plate of Asian noodles covering some caille eggs, along with a sweet potato to drink

If you're familiar with Les Magnolias, this is probably a favorite - M. Chauvel's famous ham and cheese sandwich in a glass

For the main plate you choose - fish or meat.  This is meat (beef)

And this would be the fish - St. Pierre, along with anisette-flavored asparagus

A couple familiar accompaniments for the plate - the mustard macaroon and mashed potatoes - two more favorite carry-overs from Les Magnolias

A nice little cheese interlude leading up to dessert

Dessert, part 1

Dessert, part 2, and yes, that is mint-flavored cotton candy

A closer look at dessert, part 2

Overall, a great meal.  It would have been nice to see fewer Les Magnolias favorites - even though they are favorites - and some new novelties, especially for the main plates, which were more conservative offerings than I have come to expect from a Jean Chauvel kitchen.  It's early and it will be interesting to see how the restaurant evolves over the next year.  Unfortunately, I can't comment on the brasserie, though a friend who works in the bustling neighborhood mentioned that the place is plenty busy at lunch time.  Whichever option you choose, other than the bar and lounge - you should be attentive to the 3Rs - reserve, reserve, reserve.  It's going to get tough once word gets around.

Restaurant Jean Chauvel  
3B Brasserie Boulogne Billancourt
33 ave du General Leclerc
92100 Boulogne Billancourt

tel: 01 55 60 79 95

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TANNAT - Another Winner on Parmentier

I like the idea of naming one's restaurant after something related to food and not, say, the street address of the establishment.  The former is the case for Tannat, whose brave owners Ariane Stern and Simon Auscher had the tenacity to open about a half block from Chateaubriand, one of the top eating venues in all of Paris.  Tannat doesn't reach the heights of Chateaubriand, but it has its merits and is definitely worth its place on the map.  Getting back to names, as I digress, according to Wikipedia:

Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC, and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the "national grape".

Okay, I admit I didn't know what tannat meant until I looked it up, so maybe it's not such a great thing to name your restaurant after a food item that one has to google, but if you want to be a culinary snob, you have to do some work.  And as part of my work, I also learned that Tannat's home on 119 avenue Parmentier was for 20 years the site of "the fiery and gourmet cabaret evenings at Chez Raymonde," according to the Le Fooding website.  And just to clarify, Tannat is not a Uruguayan restaurant, but a place to find - oh, what the hell, Le Fooding was on a roll, "colorful neo-bistronomic creations from Olivier Le Corre (Tour d’Argent, Bristol, 52 Faubourg)."

Co. and I checked out Tannat on a Friday evening in mid-May and found an airy, brightly-lit, mirrored room centered by a bar where one can perhaps find a seat without a reservation.  Already this is pretty unique, because when I think of the typical Parisian neobistrot, the words 'airy' and 'brightly-lit' rarely come to mind.  Those adjectives are also appropriate to describe the colorful, elegantly prepared dishes, some of which were more successful than others, but what else is new?

One of my few gripes about Tannat is that everything is ala carte.  I can't remember the last time I ate in Paris without some sort of 'menu' deal offered.  In fact, more and more I am drawn to establishments with fixed menus - the tyranny of the carte as some critics claim.  But from my vantage point, I'd prefer to let the chef decide what is best, but you are free to differ.  To each one's own.  But if you like choice - albeit limited - you'll like Tannat.  So let's get down to business - the business of food.  Here's what the carte looked like during our visit:

What's on the menu?  Click on it to find out.

Another something you don't see very often in Parisian neobistrots is a selection of dishes to share at the start.  Be forewarned, though, the plates at Tannat are copious enough without taking one of the 'partager' dishes - I was pretty much stuffed early into my main plate - but as a reviewer, I felt obliged, with Co's hesitant blessing, to go with the radis et tandoori butter.  This was just okay - the butters were blander than I expected - something I probably would have enjoyed more to embellish some cocktails.  The thinly sliced bettrave was an interesting ingredient, however.

Radishes, beet, and tandoori butter for sharing

And the very satisfying entrees:

Pain perdu, asperge vert, moelle, gremolata for Co. - what is gremolata you ask? I'll tell you.  It's a chopped herb condiment with lemon zest, garlic, and parsley

Although tempted by the beets and herring dish, I selected this one - artichokes, coques, and sable parmesan

The main plates:

For Co., the beef, gambas, and navet unique melange.  Hard to see the thinly sliced beef, but its there. 

No idea I was ordering fish and chips, even though that's what the menu says, and that's what I got.  And when I say chips, I mean chips - not the British kind (fries), but the potato chips kind, even though this dish would make any obese Brit diner (which I am happily not) proud.  Not fantastic, but I rather enjoyed this very rich dish - and I just said rather with a British accent, so as not to offend anyone, I think.

Dessert time:

Killer presentation for the strawberry, rhubarb, and white chocolate dish

A chocolate dessert fit for a Marquise - not as rich as it looks, which made it even better

We accompanied our meal with a rapidly disappearing Coteaux du Languedoc Argentier (27 euros), bringing our bill, sans cafe, to 114 euros.  I liked Tannat a lot more than I thought I would, especially in retrospect.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the carte varies in the future, which isn't the wittiest way to end this post, but it will have to do.

119 avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris
tel. 09 53 86 38 61
useless website

Note:  Apparently you can overcome my fixed-price formula nit pick at lunch with a 15 euro two-dish meal, which sounds like a pretty good deal.  You can also take a nice little walk to the Canal St Martin after your dinner, which Co and I did - on this particular evening the streets were packed, the canal lined on both sides with YOUTH, and the intersection of Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon was happily animated, six months after tragedy struck.

The canal - a short walk from Tannat

Friday, May 6, 2016

Maloka - You Say Oka, I Say Maloka

I've got another good one for you, just don't ask me what it's name is.  The card says 'Maloka,' the bill says 'Maloka,' the website says "Maloka' and 'Oka' and the facade used to read 'Oka' but now shows 'Maloka.'  The server said 'Maloka.'  I'm going with 'Maloka.'  Maloka used to be Oka, okay?  Oka will soon be Oka again, but in another location (rue Berthollet in the 5th, starting next September), as a higher priced gastronomic Franco-Brasilian establishment (80 euros per person for 20 small tasting dishes).  Until then, you'll have to settle for (and continue to do so since it's not going away according to our server) the
'alma Brasileira' on rue de la Tour d'Auvergne in the 9th (36 euro menu for five courses).

The old facade
If you have followed the evolution of Daniel Rose's now famous Spring restaurant, you probably know that Maloka is situated at Spring's birthplace before the latter outgrew its success and moved to a roomier locale.  I never did get to Spring in those early years, but I did have a deja vu experience as I sat at our corner front table in Maloka.  Yes, I've been here before.  Indeed, it's a small world (but, in the words of the immortal Stephen Wright, I wouldn't want to paint it).  For about five minutes in early 2012, the setting used to house the mediocre La Vitrine, which Co. and I did visit.  I didn't care much for La Vitrine, but I really like Maloka, and I hope it doesn't disappear once Oka the sequel takes off.

As I've already sort of suggested, this is another one of those small 16-seater Paris restaurants that we all have come to love, if we ever are lucky enough to reserve in time - several prospective patrons were turned away at the door of Maloka during our Friday evening dinner which, because of a second serving, commenced at the ungodly early hour of 7 pm.  True, I remember eating dinner at 5 pm when I lived in the States (and then a post-dinner dinner when I was starving around 10 pm), but by European standards, 7 pm is pretty early.  On the other hand, the earlier hour meant we weren't rushed to finish to make way for the second service (a lousy policy that in the past ruined a perfectly excellent dinner at La Servan and a recent meal at Hero) .  Maloka is that kind of place - genial servers, good atmosphere, and as far as the food goes, some nice original flavors and ingredients.  This isn't a Brazilian restaurant per se - instead, carico chef Raphaël Rego infuses French dishes with Brazilian accents, such as guava, corn cream sauce, palm heart emulsion, verbana jus, cilantro, and feijao (puréed black beans). Not exactly your typical Parisian.

Here's what mine and Co's dishes looked like for our visit, offerings which are sure to change nightly according to chef Rego's inspiration:

A great start with four amuses bouche, topped off with a delicate pure sugar cane wafer

A rich coconut emulsion

This ceviche and wild flowers is a good example of the Delboeuf illusion in practice

Maigre fish, emulsion, and puree of patate douce

More fish for me as a meat alternative - cabillaud and black bean puree

Co's copious beef dish - definitely not an example of Delbouef

Stupendous dessert with fresh basilic

Whatever you call the restaurant - it's not Spring, it's not La Vitrine, and it's no longer Oka, this was a terrific meal for 36 euros per person plus another 36 euros for a bottle of a Brazilian cabernet (Aurora Reserva).


28 rue de la Tour d'Auvergne
75009 Paris
useless website, don't bother
tel. 01 45 23 99 13
closed Sunday & Monday; open for lunch on Saturday

seen on the way to Maloka

still on the way to Maloka

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Le Galopin - 2 for 2

No sense rehashing my review from January.  Another visit last night and I can simply leave it at 'ditto.'  Me and Co., two for two - two great meals at Le Galopin.  Doesn't sound like much, but the maquereau, feve, and pamplemousse was awesome.

This would be the fixed menu - click and it gets a lot bigger.


Make that 3 for 3 - with Moose in tow for an early May, 
mid-week dinner, this may have been the best yet.  Here are shots of 
three of the dishes:


asperges et saint-pierre 


Monday, April 11, 2016

Anthocyane - Coulda Been A Contender

Following his visit back in early February, Paris restaurant blogger John Talbott concluded that the new restaurant Anthocyane in the 14th was 'not yet ready for prime time.  Give 'em a month or two.'  Co. and I did just that, only to discover that Anthocyane still isn't ready for prime time.  Talbott's assessment was based on menu items not available as soon as the restaurant opened for the day, a server who rattled off the dishes without interest in the customer's cognitive processing of said dishes, and other asundry 'kinks' in the service.  And my assessment - drum roll, please:  'ditto.'

It's a handsome restaurant with a tongue twister of an incomprehensible name - after all, wouldn't you want a name for your restaurant that people are actually going to remember?  (Okay, so maybe it does refer to a kind of red cabbage dye, so what?)   We were seated in the main room, within view of the kitchen, but not really positioned to see what was going on in the kitchen.  An open/closed kitchen?  Right off the bat, the owner took my coat, turned it upside down, and watched as my sunglasses fell out of the pocket. It was going to be that kind of evening. The aforementioned server was impossible to follow; maybe another robot could have grasped whatever he was babbling about the dishes, but he didn't appear to get the idea after I asked several times for him to repeat his remarks.

This is the room in the back where they (apparently) stick the noisier customers

The 59 euro menu degustation started off with two very nice amuse bouches.  I quickly gobbled down a rather unique brown tortilla chip and was about to dip into the two accompaniments when I noticed that Co. hadn't eaten a bite and bore perplexed look on her face - the look that says, 'I prefer wine when I eat.'  In fact, I had to ask a second time for the delivery of the bottle, the server apparently not capable of processing such a challenging request, thereby leaving it up to the owner, whom Co. suggested bore a resemblance to actor Oscar Isaac, for what it's worth.  Our 29 euro bottle of Bourgueil les Vingts Lieux Dits arrived and the consumption process (re)commenced.  At least at the start, I again had to agree with Talbott, who claimed that once the food started appearing on the table, those service-related peccadilloes began to fade.

Amuse bouche 1

Amuse bouche 2 - a creamy betterave concoction

The meal got off to a serious start with (apparently) one of Anthocyane's signature dishes, a poulpe croustillant preparation, which really looked great, but was underwhelming in terms of taste.  I really wanted to like this,because I really like poulpe, but there was nothing of  interest to pique the taste buds.

Next up was a scallop and potatoes serving.  I thought the rounded potatoes were kind of interesting, but the scallops weren't nearly as succulent as the ones I recently reported on at Prosper et Fortunee.

By the way, here's a little test for you:  can you identify what these first two dishes have in common?

Answer:  both dishes included a couple caper berries (at least I think that's what they are called).  This is an unusual - and very tasty - ingredient that I rarely see served in a French restaurant, yet - my god, what a coincidence - they appeared in two dishes IN A ROW at Anthocyane.  What this tells me is that chef Andrea Franceschi is pretty fond of those babies and will throw them into any dish, well, just because.

Find the berry in the two dishes above and maybe Anthocyane is your kind of place

Whatever love for Anthocyane that had entered our hearts at this point in the festivities essentially flew out the window with the next course.  I had earlier explained to the server that I do not eat lamb - a rather straightforward admission that the server initially had difficulty comprehending for whatever unfathomable reason - whereas Co. clearly revealed that lamb is one of her favorites.  So when it came time - now - for the lamb dish, both of us were served the fish alternative, and we were informed that 'if one customer has a dietary restriction, the rest of the table must suffer for it.'  This is where I decided that chef Franceschi was more emotionally challenged than Bradley Cooper's character in Burnt.  With the refusal to provide Co. with her eagerly anticipated lamb dish, I swear I thought I began to see smoke beginning to rise from her head.  Apparently, owner Jean-Paul da Costa recognized that he had a near crisis on his hands - Co. was seriously contemplating storming out - and returned to our table to inform Co. that, after all, it was not a problem and she could have the lamb dish.  Ha ha ha, just kidding bro!  Ta da!  And so it went.  Co. really enjoyed the lamb, and I was content with the fish, although I can't say we all lived happily ever after.

Is it lamb or is it fish?

Is it fish or is lamb?  And where's my caper berry, damn it?

When I related the story about the lamb to an American friend, he suggested that he often encountered that problem at restaurants in the U.S. ever since his wife went vegetarian.  Fair enough, but I have never, ever, in my many years of dining in Paris, experienced such a closed-minded policy.  So there.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we come to the dessert duo, a palette cleansing fruit dish followed by a chocolate, chocolate, chocolate sort of souflfle, the latter overly rich for my pardner but sinfully decadent enough for yours truly.

Bringing the evening's entertainment to a rousing finish, a plate of patisseries, and if you've been reading my other reviews, you know how a free plate of these babies at the end of a meal just makes me positively giddy.

Perhaps one day Anthocyane will indeed be a contender (for a Michelin star, that is), but it has a long way to go.  Co. was impressed by their unique looking spoons, just so I don't forget.  Two menu degustations, a bottle of wine, and one espresso brought the bill to 152 euros.  Anthocyane - still not ready for prime time.

63, rue Daguerre
75014 Paris
tel: 01 43 27 86 02
Closed Sunday and Monday

Monsieur da Costa (foreground) doesn't look like Oscar Isaac if you ask me, but Co. begs to differ

Window graffito on rue Daguerre

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